The First Honda Odyssey, Pilot and Passport Weren’t Cars at All

When you type "Honda Odyssey" into Wikipedia, you’re sent to what is called the ‘disambiguation’ page. The disambiguation page exists to help determine what exactly you were searching for in instances where the search term you entered was somewhat ambiguous.

For example, when you type in "football," you’re taken to a disambiguation page that gives you the option to choose either American football or International football, among other things.

While you would think that the search term "Honda Odyssey" would be plenty specific, sure enough, there’s that disambiguation page. Why? Because long before the minivan had even been invented, there was an entirely different Honda Odyssey. And it was a go-kart.

The first Honda Odyssey.

WAS.

A.

GO.

KART.

The Honda Odyssey 2-wheel-drive ATV was introduced in 1977, and was also referred to as the FL250. It was yellow, had one headlight and had a pull start, air-cooled, 248cc 2-stroke engine and no reverse gear. It lacked rear suspension, which often resulted in cracked frames, and the roll cage didn’t even cover the passenger area. Overheating was also an issue. Optional accessories for the original Odyssey FL250 were knobbier tires, a cargo rack and a trailer hitch.

The second-generation Odyssey ATV was introduced in 1981 and added a full roll-cage and a red color scheme to a design that was otherwise pretty similar to the original. The front steering setup was also redesigned, among other improvements.

The third-generation Odyssey was introduced in 1985 — and as it debuted a larger 342cc engine, it was known as the FL350R. It introduced electric starting, a reverse gear, a rear suspension system and a wider overall track. It had a red roll cage, a blue seat and white fenders. Thanks to this color scheme, it was perhaps the raddest of all the Odyssey ATVs.

Next was the FL400, which came out in 1998 and got a new name: the Pilot.

That’s right, the 3-row SUV that Honda introduced in 2003 wasn’t the first Pilot, either. The original Honda Pilot had a 397cc liquid cooled engine, hence the name FL400. It was light, weighing in at under 600lbs — considerably lighter than popular side-by-sides of today that tip the scales at over 800lbs. It also offered standard rear view mirrors, two headlights and, like models before it, a 4-point safety harness.

Also like the Odyssey, the Pilot had a unique steering setup, forgoing a typical wheel in favor of an aircraft-style yoke. On the yoke were the throttle and brake controls — the Pilot didn’t have pedals — and wrist restraints for ensuring that hands remained inside the vehicle at all times.

Ultimately, at a price of $5,998, the Pilot was expensive, and perhaps a bit ahead of its time, as it was discontinued after the 1990 model year.

Finally, on a note somewhat related to the Odyssey and Pilot, we have another fun story about the U.S. version of the world-famous Honda Super Cub minibike; one of the most popular means of transportation across the globe. While sales of the Super Cub started in the United States in the early 1960s, it was offered stateside in the early 1980s as the C70 Passport, a name that would later be used on the re-badged Isuzu Rodeo sold by Honda from 1994 to 2002.

By now you’ve got to be wondering: why would Honda reuse these names on such unrelated products? After all, the Odyssey, Pilot and Passport of the 1980s share pretty much nothing with those of the modern era. I have to think it has to do with trademarks, and the fact that these names were likely already protected in the United States when it came time to introduce the car-based Odyssey, Pilot and Passport. Still, this has to go down as the most bizarre connections in American automotive history. Just don’t try to take your 2018 Odyssey over any sand dunes.

Chris O’Neill grew up in the rust belt and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He worked in the auto industry for a while, helping Germans design cars for Americans. On Instagram, he is the @MountainWestCarSpotter.

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